The anointment process is complete and the lines are drawn for next year’s battle royale for the soul of the Republican Party in a half-dozen Nevada state Senate seats.
As has been their practice for many years, Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio and members of the Senate Republican Caucus met last week to interview candidates and officially endorse those they want to back in next year’s races. However, unlike years past, the endorsement process this time around clearly had a philosophical litmus test: the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
One contestant, Glenn Greener, reported that Sen. Raggio asked him in the interview if he had any “contractual, moral, or other obligations” which would prevent him from voting for tax hikes. Greener proudly responded that he had signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising the voters of Senate District 5 that he would oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.
Greener didn’t get the caucus nod. Instead, Raggio’s Republicans endorsed Mike Roberson – who had not signed the Pledge at the time of the interview.
For Senate District 9 in Las Vegas, Raggio’s Republicans endorsed incumbent Sen. Dennis Nolan – a world-class nanny-stater and non-Tax Pledge signer – over conservative challenger Assemblyman Chad Christensen, who has been a Tax Pledge signer for the last three legislative sessions.
For the vacant Senate District 12 seat in Las Vegas, Raggio’s Republicans endorsed Assemblyman Joe Hardy – a serial tax-hiker since joining the Legislature who has steadfastly refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge – over conservative businessman Patrick McNaught who has signed the Pledge.
For Senate District 2 in Reno, non-Pledge signer Bob Larkin, a tax-lovin’ Washoe County Commissioner, was endorsed over rock-solid conservative Pledge signer Assemblyman Don Gustavson.
In Senate District 4 in Reno, conservative Pledge signers Assemblyman Ty Cobb and Todd Bailey were given the finger rather than a thumbs up by the Raggio Republicans who opted instead to back Ben Kieckhefer, a government employee with no electoral experience whatsoever and who has refused to sign the Tax Pledge.
For the Capital Senate seat, Raggio’s Republicans did endorse conservative Pledge signer Assemblyman James Settelmeyer – but only because his primary opponent, former Carson City mayor Ray Masayko, had also signed the Pledge. Raggio’s Republicans appear to have simply opted for what they believe is the lesser of two evils.
And finally, in Senate District 8 incumbent Sen. Barbara Cegavske – the most conservative member of the state Senate and longtime Tax Pledge signer – received the caucus’ endorsement, but probably only because she has no credible GOP primary challenger.
So the field is set. It will be the Raggio Republicans vs. the Conservative Republicans. Frankly, this is exactly what primaries are supposed to be all about. Let the games begin.